My last trip to Paris changed me.
While winding my way through cobbled streets and plazas, visiting museums, having croissants, and mingling with different people in different places, I came across aspects of myself that I was previously unaware of. Pondering on it, I was hit with the realization that, when approached from the right perspective, traveling can be a powerful tool for self-awareness.
Let me explain.
Traveling is Like Playing Video Games
As a kid, I loved playing video games. My favourite kind were the ones that progressed to new worlds as my character overcame challenges and became more skillful. Each world came with its own set of places, missions, villains and obstacles, which helped expand my character’s skills, exposing me to his full potential.
Traveling is very similar to such video games. Each continent, country, or city that you visit, is a new world, which pushes you out of your comfort zone, challenges your existing traits and beliefs, and encourages you to develop new ones. Your job is to bring these challenges into consciousness, and use them as opportunities to enhance your self-awareness and, therefore, experience your full potential.
A life of Sameness
Is traveling necessary for self-awareness? Of course not. But it makes it easier.
When you spend a long period of time in one place, you eventually fall into a routine that limits the range of experiences you can have. You end up interacting with the same group of people, going to the same places, reading the same kind of books, and doing all the same activities. Suddenly, your life becomes a life of sameness, with no spontaneity or passion – just a stream of same-old occurrences that eventually numb you out.
How to Practice Conscious Traveling
Traveling breaks that pattern of sameness, and challenges you to experience life from a different perspective. As you get out of your comfort zone and interact with different people, see new places, and try new things, you inevitably experience aspects of your personality that you were previously unaware of.
You may discover that you are particularly judgmental towards strangers, that you try to control your life too much, that too much traffic overwhelms you, or that you are afraid of heights. In simple words, when you expose yourself to anything new, stuff will come up. Conscious Traveling is about recognizing that stuff, owning them, and most importantly, doing something about them. From this perspective, conscious traveling becomes a powerful tool for spiritual growth.
To practice conscious traveling, follow these steps:
- Pick a destination. It may be a different continent, country, city, or even a place you haven’t been in your current place of residence
- Experience. Be a tourist, walk around, try new things, talk to strangers, let your senses guide you
- Be conscious. Of how you interact with space, people, and with yourself. Don’t take anything you do for granted. Observe the way you think, talk and act, and see if something unexpected comes up
Most importantly, take this in a playful way. Not every traveling experience will result in spiritual breakthroughs or a renewed sense of self. What’s important is that you don’t shy away from challenges, or from yourself, but you are willing to deepen your experience and awareness of yourself when you are called to do so.